Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

School Choice: The Luck of the Draw

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

School Choice: The Luck of the Draw

Article excerpt

As everyone in education knows, the middle classes grab all the best school places. A high-achieving school can boost local house prices by as much as 20 per cent, taking them to levels that only the affluent can afford. Even if they can't move into the locality, middle-class parents may still wangle their way in. Many oversubscribed secondary schools, though nominally comprehensive, quietly select out the dimmest and most troublesome children. Interviews are banned, but schools still call for "references" from primary heads. The poor, meanwhile, meekly send their children to the nearest school, even if it's sinking fast.

Is there an answer that gives the poor a better chance? Support is growing for an idea first mooted in the New Statesman in July last year. It came from Philip Collins, then director of the Social Market Foundation and now a top adviser to Tony Blair. Collins argued that schools should be banned from giving priority to parents who happen to live nearby and, unless they are grammar schools, from using any form of selection. Instead, where a school has more applicants than places, the lucky ones should be decided by "random allocation". In other words, schools should hold a lottery, though Collins preferred to call it a "ballot". So far, only a handful have taken up the idea, and then only in modified form. They include Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, one of the most popular schools in London, which allocates 10 per cent of its places to children with musical aptitude, half the others to those who live nearest and the remainder by lottery. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.